Aaron J. tile
Whetstone 101: Everything You Need to Know About the Age-Old Art of Knife Sharpening
If you’re a regular follower of our business (thank you!) you know we are huge fans of using whetstones to sharpen knives. Though there is an admitted learning curve when first embarking on your knife sharpening journey, in the long run there is no better way to sharpen knives than by using a whetstone. It’s a skill that is quickly acquired and can, over the life of a knife, save you thousands of dollars in both knife replacements and sharpening fees.
We’d like you to think of today’s article as Whetstone 101—a crash course, if you will, on the history and mechanics behind the use of whetstones, and why we think there’s simply no better way to sharpen knives. Let’s dive in!
“As a professional culinarian who uses expensive knives and tools- even in my everyday life, High quality whetstones has become a “must have” in my arsenal. Perfect for maintaining my knives on a weekly basis.
– CASPER HOLST
What Are Whetstones?
The History of Whetstones
Calling whetstone use an age-old skill is not an exaggeration. The use of rocks and stones to sharpen tools has been recorded throughout history since 79 AD. Historians surmise whetstones were first created in England and Japan, where the land held large quantities of natural stones that could be used to sharpen metal.
Though some assume the term whetstone means water is used somewhere in the sharpening process, this is not the case. In fact, the definition of the word “whet” is to sharpen the blade of a tool or weapon.
What Are Whetstones Made Of?
Whetstones were originally made of natural stone mined from the earth. They are divided into categories based on their grit, or the size of the particles found in the stones that are used to grind metal. Categories often include “rough”, “medium”, and “finishing” grit, and are used for different purposes when sharpening.
The use of natural whetstones has steadily declined thanks to the invention of synthetic versions that are able to achieve a more consistent grit. Today, natural whetstones are used almost exclusively by sharpening enthusiasts and cutlery professionals.
Modern-day whetstones are usually made of ceramic or come with a diamond coating. Such whetstones tend to last longer than their natural competitors and usually get the job done using a fraction of the pressure required when working with an organic whetstone.
How to Use a Whetstone
Some knife experts prefer to sharpen freehanded when using a whetstone. While this method requires some practice, it is certainly doable and muscle memory quickly kicks in, helping you achieve consistent results. There is also something fundamentally satisfying in sharpening a blade by hand.
That being said, it is hard to achieve the consistently excellent results that come from using a guided knife sharpening system. Such systems (like our very own ItsJustSharp™ Blade Sharpener) allow you to expertly grind metal on each side of the knife to meet perfectly at the apex of the blade, leaving you with the sharpest blade you’ve ever honed.
What Are the Benefits of Using Whetstones?
There are many reasons to use whetstones when sharpening knives. If you are just beginning on your knife sharpening journey, using a whetstone is one of the easiest ways to learn how to properly sharpen knives.
Whetstones give you exceptional control over the outcome of your knife edge, and the variety of grits available means you can control the extent and speed of metal removal that takes place.
Whetstones can run the gamut in terms of pricing. While natural stones can be expensive, there are many synthetic versions available that are economical and do a great job sharpening knives. They are also wonderfully low maintenance—simply rinse them under tap water and you’re good to go!
Have we convinced you to give knife sharpening a try? Whether you’re just beginning or a knife-sharpening pro, we think you’ll find everything you need to hone your knife sharpening skills at our online store. We have the best blades and the right sharpening tools to turn your home kitchen into a professional food studio. And if you have questions, feel free to send us an email.
Welcome to the wonderful world of whetstones!
Keywords: Sharpening Honing Sharp Whetstone 101